An article published by the medical journal Mutagenesis in February 2013, “Differential mutation profiles and similar intronic TP53 polymorphisms in asbestos-related lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma” shows the synergistic effect between asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking.
As background, lung cancer has been shown to be caused by both tobacco smoke and asbestos exposure, as well as other carcinogens. Exposure to both tobacco smoke and asbestos greatly enhances that risk so that the total risk is greater than adding the individual effects (a toxicology effect called synergism). If asbestos exposure increases your chance of getting cancer by 5 times and smoking increases your chance of getting cancer by 12 times, then being exposed to both of them can increase your chances by 60 to 100 times.
From the Absract for this February 2013 Mutagenesis article, which was based on a French study:
Given the interest in defining biomarkers of asbestos exposure and to provide insights into asbestos-related and cell-specific mechanisms of neoplasia, the identification of gene alterations in asbestos-related cancers can help to a better understanding of exposure risk. To understand the aetiology of asbestos-induced malignancies and to increase our knowledge of mesothelial carcinogenesis, we compared genetic alterations in relevant cancer genes between lung cancer, induced by asbestos and tobacco smoke, and malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), a cancer related to asbestos, but not to tobacco smoke…. While genetic changes in [non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)] are dominated by the effects of tobacco smoke, the increase of transversions in TP53 gene is consistent with a synergistic effect of asbestos. These results may help to define cell-dependent mechanisms of action of asbestos and identify susceptibility factors to asbestos.
Lastly, we want you to know that there is evidence that quitting smoking will reduce the risk of lung cancer among people who have been exposed to asbestos dust, perhaps by as much as half after at least 5 years without smoking tobacco.
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